As the first wave of free agency comes to a close, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Co. have made some big personnel decisions, indicating what they see as the future of this team. They replenished the roster with guys like Byron Murphy Jr., Josh Oliver, and Marcus Davenport while cutting older veterans like Eric Kendricks and Adam Thielen to get under the cap.
While the free-agent class is a great start to fixing up this roster for the “competitive rebuild,” the draft is really what the team will leverage to build on last season. The jury is still out on last year’s draft class. However, a majority of the players selected did not see much playing time either due to injuries or more established veteran players ahead of them. Still, it is clear that the Vikings front office will need to do a better job at finding more immediate contributors this season.
With all of that said, let’s get into my first iteration of a Vikings mock draft using the PFF mock draft simulator.
Za’Darius Smith For Pick 95
Before this mock draft gets underway, we need to address the elephant in the room. Smith has made his desire to be released known, and after adding Davenport, there isn’t a reason to keep Smith around against his wishes. However, I am not going to let one of the leading pressure-getters of last season on an affordable contract walk away for nothing.
I also was not going to let him go to a team where he could potentially be a headache for me in the NFC. The Kansas City Chiefs recently cut edge rusher Frank Clark, so they could use a prominent pass rusher opposite of the promising George Karlaftis. I decided to give the reigning Super Bowl Champions Za’Darius Smith in return for pick 95.
Pick 25: Trade
Pick 25 & 95 For Pick 27, 59, and 205
Yes, I know, another trade down. But, realistically speaking, this team has a lot of holes they need to fill, and with a long break between picks 23 and 87, it makes sense to move down a little bit if it results in getting a second-rounder. That’s where pick 95 comes in handy.
I can parlay picks 23 and 95 into picks 27, 59, and 205, getting a first-, second-, and sixth-rounder in return for my first and the third-round pick acquired from Kansas City in the Za’Darius Smith trade. While I wholeheartedly expect some players I wanted to come off the board in the next four picks, I will run that risk considering the value I am getting and the chance to add another high-level player with the second-round selection.
Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
Fortunately, the player I was eyeing at pick 23 fell to 27. I didn’t expect as many teams to pass on Banks as they did, but I will take their loss as my gain and gleefully run to the podium to make my pick.
Banks is a perfect press-man cornerback who has all of the tools you would want from a player in his position. Banks is 6’0”, 197 lbs., and has the athletic ability that this regime values. He clocked in with a 4.35 40-yard-dash time and a 9.99 RAS score.
On top of that, he brings the aggressive mindset that Vikings fans have been longing for. He’s unafraid to get physical and press wide receivers at the line. Adding Banks to a cornerback room with Murphy Jr, Andrew Booth, and Akayleb Evans significantly improves the outlook of your cornerback room after overhauling it in only two years.
Rashee Rice, WR, SMU
While the board broke well for me in the first round, the second round wasn’t as kind. All the best players available were cornerbacks, centers, or edge rushers. Although I could have traded down, the interested teams didn’t have picks until the middle of the third. With all of this considered, I might have reached with this pick due to the glaring need at wide receiver. Still, I went ahead and took Rashee Rice, wide receiver from SMU.
Rice is one of the more athletic wideouts in this class, with a 9.65 RAS score, and he has the size to match, coming in at 6’1”, 204 lbs. In his senior season, Rice put up incredible numbers with 1,344 yards and 10 touchdowns with an 8.6% drop rate for his entire college career. Rice also plays a majority of his snaps on the outside, which will allow Justin Jefferson to get more looks in the slot and draw mismatches against smaller nickel corners.
Though Rice has all of the tools, he will need to work on putting them together at the NFL level. He ran a very limited number of routes at SMU. He will also need to work on his ability to get separation against man coverage, something he struggles with occasionally. But given the attention a player like Jefferson commands, I think that Rice can be a Day 1 contributor and push K.J. Osborn for the WR2 spot.
DeMarvion Overshown, LB, Texas
After addressing two massive needs on both sides of the ball, I can look a bit to the future. With Eric Kendricks gone and Jordan Hicks in the final year of his deal, it becomes more evident that the Vikings will need to find a partner in the middle for Brain Asamoah. DeMarvion Overshown can be that guy.
At 6’4”, 220 lbs, and with a 4.56 40-yard-dash time, Overhsown has the size and speed you would want from someone in the middle of the field. Against the run, he can make plays from sideline to sideline and uses his speed to blow past linemen on his way to the ball carrier. In coverage, his skills as a former safety are on display with his ability to flip his hips and use his length to cover opposing tight ends.
Overshown isn’t a finished product yet. He will need to add some strength to his frame to be better suited to NFL play and be more consistent as a tackler. He will also have to do a better job at diagnosing plays at the next level. But given that he will be sitting behind Hicks and Asamoah for his rookie season, he will have time to develop and get better in these areas.
Kobie Turner, DL, Wake Forest
With pick 119, I address the pressing need in the interior defensive line and select Kobie Turner from Wake Forest. After losing Dalvin Tomlinson over the past offseason, the interior defensive line is even thinner than it was before. Bringing in Dean Lowry helps a bit, but it isn’t the solution.
Turner is a bit undersized and doesn’t have the length you want. However, I am willing to overlook that for his sheer athleticism and the production he can generate in the pass rush. In 2022, he had a pass-rush win rate of 14.7% and was able to record 27 hurries. He also can punch the ball out when he makes a tackle, and forcing turnovers is always a skill that teams welcome.
Viliami Fehoko, EDGE, San Jose State
Marcus Davenport signed a one-year deal, and D.J. Wonnum’s contract expires at the end of the season. Therefore, it would behoove the Vikings to find an insurance policy with a high upside if both of them were to leave.
Fehoko is just that, finishing this season with 12 sacks and recording a 21.5% pass-rush win rate. His upside is intriguing, especially when you factor in his relentlessness and the variety of pass-rush moves he has.
To hit his potential in the NFL, he will need to learn to time up his movement with the snap better, because he’s slow for an edge rusher. Despite this, he’s a steal at pick 158. Fehoko is more than competent when it comes to rushing the passer and setting the edge against the run.
Stetson Bennett, QB, Georgia
Yes, I know, But Preet, Stetson Bennett is 38 years old and throwing slant routes to four- and five-star recruits against 19- and 20-year-old corners. Now that we got that out of our system, let’s take an objective look at the villain of college football.
Bennett is undersized at 5’11”, 192 lbs. He also is 25 years old and will be 26 by the time his rookie season is over. Yes, these are two things you would preferably want to avoid when drafting a quarterback, but no sixth-round quarterback is going to come without major concerns.
What Bennett has is a 4.67 40-yard-dash time that allowed the Georgia Bulldogs to use him in the running game. He also has a decent deep ball. Despite the concerns about his arm, he ended up throwing further than Will Levis at the combine. Bennett also has a PFF grade of 94.3 on deep throws and had a turnover-worthy-play rate of just 2.4%.
Am I drafting Bennett intending to be QB of the future? No. He likely will be a backup at best, if he even makes the roster his rookie year. But last season taught us through the examples of Brock Purdy and Skylar Thompson that sometimes taking a risk on a late-round quarterback pays off.
Dee Winters, LB, TCU
With my final pick in this mock draft, I double back at the linebacker position and take Dee Winters from TCU. Winters is intriguing to me as an athlete. Despite his small stature in terms of both height and weight, he has an above-average wingspan with electrifying speed.
Much like Overshown, my third-round pick, Winters is a former defensive back and displays the same type of fluid hips. Since 2020 at TCU, Winters has lined up in the slot for over 350 snaps. In the run game, he can make an impact with his speed on run blitzes. But if and when a lineman blocks him, he becomes mostly nullified from the play.
He will need to improve his tackling and get better and shedding blocks in the NFL. But his speed and coverage skills give him some upside. At worst he could be a special teams contributor for this team.